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Ivan Martos: Alexander I, 1814. You may not use this photo for commercial purposes. © Photo: Helsinki Art Museum

Alexander I

Artist Ivan Martos

Unioninkatu 36, Kluuvi, Helsinki

The bust of Alexander I, now located in the courtyard of the University of Helsinki Library, has a colourful history. It is believed that the Empress Elizabeth donated the bust to the Turku Academy in 1814. It is more probable, however, that the Academy itself commissioned it directly from the artist Ivan Martos, one of the most important sculptors in Russia at the time. In 1832, five years after Turku burnt down (1827), the piece was transferred to the grand hall of the newly finished University of Helsinki building whose architect, C.L. Engel, had made preparations already in the building’s plans for locating the piece. I n 1932, nationalist students demanded its removal from the grand hall, and it was moved to the yard of the National Museum. The sculpture was transferred to its present location in the yard of the Library of the University of Helsinki in 1957, with its ornamental strips and text removed. However, new versions were made ten years later (Eero Petterson/Aulis Blomsted’s office).

The bust of Alexander I is a typical NeoClassical image of a ruler. The emperor is depicted as a Roman imperator. The bust is cast in bronze. Ivan Martos’ sculpture is considerably larger than life-size: the piece is 130 cm high. The text on the pedestal was originally composed by Professor Johan Erik Wallenius.

The work doesn’t belong to the collections of the Helsinki Art Museum.

The sculpture is currently removed from the outdoor space.

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